A very dangerous man was dying, because even the best of predators could meet their match from time to time. This was one of those times, Nigel gritting his teeth and wishing he had stayed in Bucharest like Darko had bitched at him to do instead of coming to Manhattan to do business in person.
The wound that ran down his left side was deep, the gash long and wide enough that Nigel had to keep a hand and pressure on it to keep living long enough to beat and threaten some scared vet to sew him back up.
Hospitals were not an option for him. Being drugged and hooked up to machines would make him ridiculously easy to find and kill, especially now that he had all the wrong people looking for him.
That and doctors tended to call in unwanted attention from the police for his type of injuries. Nigel was a bad man who did not want his sins looked into. They tended to run a little too red, dark, and dead.
His current predicament was proof enough of that. It was lonely at the top, but even more so, it was dangerous. Betrayed by someone on the inside, going to his own people here would pretty much equate to assisted suicide. Someone was always hungry, looking for an opening, and would be more than willing to try their luck while he was weak and wounded, especially when he was not in his own place of power. Darko with their version of an army was only a phone call away, but with an ocean and a fucking 14-17 hour flight between them. Nigel still didn’t know who had tried to get him killed either. It would be safer to keep his head down and just disappear for a little while. Nothing like making your enemies think that you are dead to surprise the hell out of them later on with a bullet to the back of the skull.
No, if he was going to die, it would be on his own terms which were dwindling down side by side with his seconds. Nigel didn’t even have any idea where he was anymore, the dying man wandering down randomly picked back alleys and side streets of Manhattan to avoid notice. A coat that wasn’t his, and damned if he could remember where he’d gotten it from, was pressed close to his body to hide all signs of him losing life.
When he noticed he was no longer moving but the world was still spinning, Nigel realized he had fallen down. He couldn’t find the strength to get back up, the bad man finding that he had one hell of a view while on his back. As far as he could make out from his surroundings, Nigel gathered that he was in a park of some kind. Twilight was beginning to set in, his amber brown eyes hazily watching the stars come out one by one.
“You seem to have fallen down.” came a voice from somewhere overhead, like God was speaking directly to him in a somewhat monotone voice.
“Yeah? Imagine that.” Nigel growled, his own voice rough with accented pain. His hands fumbled for his cigarettes, but got lost in their mission in the folds of his stolen clothing, the coat falling open to reveal all his secrets.
“I don’t have to imagine. You fell right in front of me. You appear to be hurt as well.” the voice told him, still sounding neutral about it.
“No shit.” Nigel mumbled. He really wished that his hands would stop shaking. He could feel himself giving up the ghost fast. Sighing, Nigel found that he regretted not being able to smoke one last time.
“Are you in pain? You look like you are in pain.” the voice asked, sounding as toneless as ever. It was starting to really piss Nigel off.
“I feel fucking peachy.” Nigel didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. His last conversation in life was really kind of confusing.
“Oh…I’m….um….I don’t know…what than means. H-how do you feel peachy?” The voice stammered, finally beginning to sound something other than dull. Nigel could almost believe he was talking to an actual human and not some hallucination his mind made up due to blood loss.
“Fuck. Just…” Nigel never got to finish that sentence, his body finally giving up on him. Nigel closed his eyes and got lost in the darkness that followed, his sight leaving him like comets.
Truth be told, Nigel hadn’t expected to wake up at all, except he did, in waves of heat and pain that would have made him throw up if he had anything in his stomach. His body was cooking itself from the inside out, the wound in his side feeling more like a branding from the infection that pulsed through it with its own vivid life. The body aches and chills of fever told Nigel that he was still very much alive, but sick enough he couldn’t do much of anything else about it, but lie there and suffer.
A cool cloth, moist and welcome, was placed against his skin, over his eyes and effectively blinding him. He won’t have moved it for the world though as he heard himself cry out weakly in relief from it, muttering word of thanks in the first language that came to mind. It was like heaven was cooling the hell of his skin.
The treatment continued over the rest of him as well as a soft cloth moved across his body, cleaning off the sweat and sickness from it. Even if he had wanted to, Nigel was too weak to protest. The hands that cared for him were gentle, kind things though that laid him back upon cool, clean smelling sheets when they were done with their task.
Drifting back into unconsciousness, Nigel realized that someone was reading out loud to him, though he couldn’t make out what it was about. He fell asleep hazily wondering why anyone would name something in space Sirius after a dog, or if there was even such a thing as spacedogs. For the first time in his life, Nigel dreamed of stars.
Consciousness was fleeting at the best of times for Nigel. Sometimes he woke up to water being pressed to his lips and fingers working over his throat to help him drink. Other times, he awakened to the taste of milk in his mouth, taking some of the aching hunger out of his belly.
More often than not though, Nigel blinked into waking to the sound of that monotone voice, still disembodied yet so close, reading to him. He started to live for that voice, that low soft voice that only came truly alive when it starting talking about space and everything else up there. It took several tries on Nigel’s part to mentally keep up, but eventually, he realized that he was being informed about the entire Milky Way and all its many contents.
When not reading, the voice was still somewhat unvaried, the owner of it cheap with his emotions. It only really took on life when it told Nigel about the mysteries of black holes, the delicate natures of nebulas, and the lonely journeys of comets. Nigel feigned sleep to listen to it longer, peeking out from under his eyelids to catch glimpses of a curly haired man sitting on the floor beside the bed with a book balanced on his knees, always cast in shadow by the lamplight he read under.
Then a morning came that Nigel woke up and found that he could stay awake without a whole lot of effort on his part, his skin cool for once to the touch. His side still hurt, but it was a manageable sort of pain, one he could live with. Forcing himself to sit up with a deep seated groan, Nigel looked around to find that he was in someone’s bedroom, lived in but neat as a pin. It was a tidy space with calming blue walls, white accents, and space theme to it, the spaces between decorated with framed pictures of star systems. Strangely enough, there was what looked like a space suit, the white puffy kind that astronauts wore, hanging beside a double door closet.
“You’re awake.” said the voice that had carried Nigel through the worst, the one he had started to equate to some unseen higher power. He found it actually belonged to a man who looked about a decade younger than himself with dark curly hair parted at the side and wide staring blue gray eyes that never quite seemed to meet his own. The man was carrying a glass of milk in hand and a glass of water in the other.
“Could you tell me your name? People are supposed to know each other‘s names.” the man with the dull voice asked, setting the milk and water on the table beside the bed, but making no other move to come closer to him.
“I’m Nigel. Who the fuck are you?” the very bad man snapped, suddenly very aware of how naked he was now, how vulnerable he was in this stranger’s bed and even stranger company. Oddly enough, the man didn’t seem put off by his state of undress or his rude manner.
“Oh….Adam. My name is Adam.”
One day, much like any other day in Adam’s life of carefully structured planning and routine, a man collapsed in front of him while he was stargazing in the park. The constellation Cassiopeia and the planet Mercury were both easy to see at that time of day even without a telescope.
“You seem to have fallen down.” Adam informed the man, hoping that he would realized this, get back up, and be on his way.
“Yeah? Imagine that.” the man mumbled low and gravelly. His hands were shaking as they moved over his body as if looking for something. It caused his coat to fall open, the man’s shirt more red than the white it was supposed to be. Adam also noted that the coat didn't fit the man's body well either or match any of his other clothing that was also ill fitting.
“I don’t have to imagine. You fell right in front of me. You appear to be hurt as well.” Adam said, just wanting to be helpful. The man was harder to read than other people, probably because he was on the ground and not making much sense. As far as Adam could tell, he looked tired.
“No shit.” The man said, sounding sad or at least what Adam thought sad should sound like. Emotions were like ill fitting suits to Adam, much like the man's clothing, sitting over his skin wrong until he discarded them out of frustration or forgot to wear them at all. It felt like he had spent his entire lifetime changing clothes to find that nothing fit.
“Are you in pain?” Adam asked, watching as the man frowned up at him. He hoped the man would get soon and be on his way.
“I feel fucking peachy.” the man groaned, the sound of his voice seeming to be directly adverse to his words. Adam had no idea how one felt while being ‘peachy’. To his knowledge, which was considerable because he read all the time and retained everything that he read, a peach could be a fruit or a color or both. It wasn’t an emotion though. He liked peaches though and from his people watching, Adam knew that other people liked them to, so being peachy was probably a good thing. Except that man didn’t look good. He didn't look well at all, his skin tone reminding Adam of his father's own at the funeral parlor, all pale and waxy. Adam hadn't liked the shade of it then and he didn't like it now. He didn't understand why peaches were even a variable in this equation.
“Oh…I’m….um….I don’t know…what than means. How do you feel peachy?” Adam felt flustered now, hated that he felt this way, hating that he had to ask. The familiar feel of confusion made his hands shake when people talked at him instead of to him. The man would probably think that he was stupid now. Or weird. One of the two probably. Things had only gotten worse now that his father was gone and no one was there to explain Adam's situation to strangers when things went awry.
“Fuck. Just…” the man whispered, his voice dimming out as his body seemed to turn off, going limp and prone.
Staring down at the man, Adam felt unsure about what to do now, vague panic setting in as his day began to derail. Some part of him informed his forethought that people usually reacted to such occurrences by seeking out aid. Adam felt confident enough to do that. The man was very hurt, Adam could tell that much from all the blood. It was unsettling on some level that Adam couldn’t quite connect on. He just knew he didn’t like blood. It smelled funny to him, like metal.
This was a dilemma though. Would he have to call the police….or would he have to call an ambulance? Or both? What if he had to go with the man to the hospital? Adam didn’t like hospitals or doctors for that matter, and police scared him.
Furrowing his brow, Adam tried to think of another option. He thought about calling his friend Harlan, but Harlan didn’t fix people. His father’s army buddy fixed cars and doors and other broken things. Adam didn’t know anyone else who could help though or would be willing to. To Adam’s knowledge, none of his neighbors were medical professionals either. The other people who lived in the apartment building were nice enough even if they thought he was weird and tended to avoid talking to him. Adam reasoned out for himself that if he didn’t want to talk to strange people or go to the hospital that he was it, that he was this man’s help.
Satisfied with his decision, Adam knelt down, looping an arm under the man and lifted him up the best he could. The man was heavier than he expected, but Adam managed to carry him up to his second floor apartment. If anyone noticed Adam dragging a half dead looking man covered in blood, they didn’t want to get involved and would probably only start caring if there was a smell.
As he balanced the man against him to open the front door, Adam could feel blood seeping into his clothing, wrinkling his nose at it, not liking the feel or smell. He would have to do laundry sooner now because of it and that was going to throw off all his other chores. The strange man’s clothing were just as ruined, and would have to be cleaned as well.
Though his father was dead and had been for about eight weeks now, Adam couldn’t bring himself to put the man in that empty room, the space kept just the same as the day his father had left for the hospital and never came back. It was mentally easier for Adam to handle putting the man in his own bed. Adam supposed that he could sleep on the rug. It was only a little smaller than his twin bed and it was almost in the same spot as the bed.
Taking off all the man’s clothing because they were all so filthy and smelled bad, Adam saw the source of the problem. There was a huge cut in the man’s side and it was leaking. It looked all red and wrong and out of place. Touching it caused the man to moan in pain but not wake up. Going to his small library of random books, Adam remembered his father acquiring several medical volumes at some point, some of the few that didn’t pertain to Asperger’s syndrome.
Retrieving the books to sit down beside the now naked and still unconscious man, Adam read all the chapters in the books about wounds and things that could happen to a person while having them. Applying all that new knowledge to the situation at hand a couple of hours later, Adam knew that the man had a fever and the stitching in his side was poorly done and infected.
Adam made a list of all the things he needed to do for the man like he would his chores, marking them off as he finished each and every one.
The man would moan in his sleep. Adam was glad for it even if it did wake him up. It meant the man was still alive, but Adam wondered if the man was having nightmares. It sounded like he was. Unsure of what to do or if he should try to wake the man(all the books said that rest was important), Adam did what his father would have done, had done for him in the past when he felt too overloaded and panicky.
Clicking on the nightstand light and opening one of his favorite books about the Big Bang theory, Adam started to read, losing himself the sweeping creation of the galaxy. By the time he finished, it was morning and the man was sleeping peacefully. Exhausted yet feeling somewhat pleased, Adam got up off the floor to go start his day as per usual.
The man was still very sick, sick enough that he hadn’t woken up to go the bathroom. The bed was now a mess and Adam would have to do even more laundry. Going to work had been a mistake, Adam realized as he cleaned up the man, the sheets, and the mattress. He put towels under the man just in case it happened again. He had more towels than sheets.
The man shifted in his sleep as Adam cleaned him off, the stranger’s skin hot and sticky to the touch. It didn’t feel right to Adam, not dry and cool like his own. After doing some more research, Adam crushed up aspirin to dissolve it into water, helping the man drink it bit by bit. Adam didn’t know how to make him eat so he gave the man milk to drink because that was food but in liquid form so it counted.
When he put a cold cloth on the man’s forehead, the stranger seemed to wake a little bit, mumbling out foreign sounding words Adam couldn’t understand, but memorized anyway. He spent the next couple of hours keeping an eye on the man and looking up the meaning of the words on his laptop. Some of them were Romanian and some of them were Danish. None of them made any sense in the order they were spoken so Adam put them on the back burner of his mind to remember and research more thoroughly later on.
Adam made more lists to take care of the man now that he had to make the stranger his sole focus for now. He called into work, letting them know that he needed some time off so he could establish a new set of routines, at least for now. The man would eventually get better, he would leave, and then Adam could go back to his safe little existence. He had acquired some vacation days from Replay Inc. and his boss seemed amiable enough about giving him time off despite the project being left uncompleted. Adam decided he needed to take some of Harlan's advice about life and just focus on the problem at hand, that being the stranger in his bed
This could be good for him though. Harlan was always telling him to try out new things. Adam would try having a houseguest.
When he was just getting used to the new set of chores to follow, the man woke up, sitting up on his own in Adam’s bed. He still looked tired but he seemed to be really awake for now, the good kind of awake. Adam wondered what language the man would be speaking in today. So far, he had said words in French, Norwegian, Swedish, Romanian, and Danish as well as English. It was kind of exciting, a new surprise followed by hours of interesting research every time the man spoke.
“You’re awake.” Adam said, because he was pretty sure he needed to say something. ‘Hello’ didn’t seem to be the right thing to say, and he couldn’t say ‘Good morning’ either cause it was already late in the afternoon, but you were supposed to say something when someone woke up.
At the moment, Adam found it easier to look down at the glasses of milk and water he carried in hand. Remembering belated that eye contact was polite and he should at least attempt it, Adam glanced back up to find the man staring at him, his eyes remarkably intense and bright. The man’s eye reminded Adam of the Trapezium cluster of brown dwarf stars in the Orion Nebula. They also made Adam feel nervous for some reason.
“Could you tell me your name? People are supposed to know each other‘s names.” Adam asked, setting the milk and water on the table, but making no other move to get closer. The man’s body language was tense and angry. Adam could tell that much, but didn’t know what to do about it.
“I’m Nigel. Who the fuck are you?” the man said quite abruptly, confusing Adam even further still. The man’s body conveyed anger but his voice was calm. almost soothing in tone. Adam realized his mistake though, why the man must be so angry with him. He hadn’t introduced himself first like a good host was supposed to.
“Oh….Adam. My name is Adam.”